All content © Copyright Stephen J. Krieg

First Snow Of November

November 19, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

November 17 during the night brought a quick moving cold front through the region.

In the morning, a trace of snow on the ground in Cortez, in the Montezuma Valley.

At Mesa Verde National Park about ten miles east of Cortez, the Law Enforcement Rangers were changing the entrance station sign to "Snow Tires Recommended". Indeed: the entire road surface was frozen. But it wasn't glare ice, it had texture and my tires had no problem. The park snow plow truck was already hitting the inbound lane, knowing that nothing much more would happen until the sun worked on it. Being a clear cold morning, the sun was soon doing just that.

Point Lookout after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6312-2Point Lookout after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Near the park entrance, Point Lookout was already glowing along its east flanks with the just risen sunlight.

Sunrise after the first snowfall of the season, upper Prater Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6313-Pano-2Sunrise after the first snowfall of the season, upper Prater Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

About five miles inside the park, alongside the road at the head of Prater Canyon, a ridge to the south was lit up in gold and blue hues.

Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling site after first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6323-2Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling site after the first snowfall of the season, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Twenty miles into the park, at Headquarters and the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, I took an early morning shot of Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling in deep shadow in its alcove below the rim. Spruce Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde, as well as the best preserved.

Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6325-2Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

In late afternoon, on the way back out of the south end of the park, some wild turkeys were hogging the road. The low sunlight in the roadside grasses made for a beautiful contrast.

Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6332-2Wild turkey along the road, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Another of the turkeys along the road. In this image I avoided the urge to crop too much, preferring the added sunlight glow in the field behind.

Coyote in evening sunlight, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6335Coyote in evening sunlight, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Soon after passing the turkeys, I saw what might have been checking them out: a coyote. Although I only had time for a quick, unprepared shot that it rather blurry, I like it.

Sleeping Ute Mountain at dusk, from Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-6340Sleeping Ute Mountain at dusk, from Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

Back at the north end of the park at dusk, I stopped at the Montezuma Valley Overlook for snow accented slopes of the North Rim of Mesa Verde, as well as the long hulking form of Sleeping Ute Mountain on the other side of the valley.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg


Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde National Park

November 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Petroglyph panel, Petroglyph Panel Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5948The Petroglyph Panel at Mesa Verde.

The Petroglyph Trail is the most popular trail in Mesa Verde National Park. It is located near the Chapin Mesa Museum, where the Park Headquarters are located. It's near Spruce Tree House, one of the largest and best preserved cliff dwellings in the park. And the trail itself follows beneath a rim of Chapin Mesa to the largest petroglyph panel in the park.

Steps at beginning of Petroglyph Point Trail in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5908-2The start of Petroglyph Point Trail, below Spruce Tree House.

The beginning of the trail is a short walk down a paved series of switchbacks from the Museum. At the junction of the Spruce Canyon Trail, a sign directs you to the first set of steps on the Petroglyph Trail. Get ready for lots more stone steps, both up and down, though the overall elevation gain won't be that much. If your knees can't take stepping down, this might not be the trail for you. Or if you're not acclimated to hiking an uneven trail at 7,000 feet elevation.

A rocky squeeze on the Petroglyph Trail in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5910A little squeeze between the rocks.

Since you started at the top of the mesa, then dropped down about a hundred feet in elevation, you aren't far below the canyon rim. That will soon become apparent as spectacular views of the surrounding canyons that are cut into Mesa Verde become visible through the trees.

View of Spruce Canyon from Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5931Canyon views along the Petroglyph Trail. One of the park headquarters buildings is visible on the canyon rim just to right of center on the horizon.

Further along the trail you pass beneath a small cliff dwelling. Just another of hundreds in the park that were left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans as they continued their migrations southward about 800 years ago.

Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling ruin along Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5926Cliff Dwelling remains on a ledge just above Petroglyph Point Trail.

Sandstone boulder showing grooves made by Ancestral Puebloans sharpening their stone tools, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5928Stone tool sharpening rock, Petroglyph Point Trail.

Nearby the cliff dwelling were some sandstone boulders that the ancient ones used to sharpen their stone tools on.

Then more steps...and more.

Stone steps on Petroglyph Point Trail, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5930-2Stone steps along Petroglyph Trail.

After a little over a mile, you come to the petroglyph panel. It's not the largest one in the Southwest, but it is a great one. And the location is awesome, in an awesome World Heritage Park.

Petroglyph Point panel panorama, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5966-Pano-2Petroglyph Panel location panorama, Mesa Verde.

Some people think that ancient inscriptions such as these are mere doodling--graffiti--by the ancient peoples. No way. The descendants of the people who lived here know what the symbols mean, even if their religious societies prevent them from revealing too much about what they know. Even among those people, there are various interpretations among the clans of the Pueblo people, but it's apparent that the work that was put into each one was important.

Detail of Petroglyph Panel at Petroglyph Point, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5961Symbols pecked into the sandstone face of the Petroglyph Panel at Mesa Verde.

After the Petroglyph Panel, there was just one more series of steps. The steepest ones, climbing up onto the rim of the mesa. But once up there, it was a relaxing walk along the mesa top back to the Museum and park headquarters.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg


One Tree's Fall Glory

November 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Cottonwood tree in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5510Cottonwood tree in autumn glory, Mesa Verde National Park.

While driving the main highway through Mesa Verde National park on a clear, sunny late October morning, I saw a lone Cottonwood tree at the downhill side of the road. It was the only one of its kind in that area of the park, high up near the North Rim of the mesa.

And it was glowing with its leaves turned to bright yellow autumn glory.

Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky, Mesa Verde National Park.2017_CO-5514Cottonwood fall foliage composition against a perfect Colorado blue sky.

I found a sufficiently wide pullout spot, stopped the car and walked the short distance along the shoulder of the road.

Cottonwood trees normally grow in flood plains. Down in stream beds where the water is. It is a water loving tree. Where there is a cottonwood tree, even in the desert, there is water somewhere below within reach of its deep root system. So what was this lonely tree doing way up here on the slope? It must have been a spot where the road funnels enough water into a small catch basin.

Cottonwood tree fall foliage colors in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado2017_CO-5512Cottonwood fall colors backlit by the sunlight and the deep shadow of the far ridge.

Whatever it was doing there, it was relatively young and obviously very healthy. With plenty of unseen water, and towering above the shrub-like Gambel Oak brush land around it on the steep mountain hillside, it had all the sunlight it could possibly want.

As I walked around the uphill side of the tree, I made several photos of the shining leaves being backlit by the midmorning sunlight. It's all about the angle of the light, as to whether you want the colors lit up or not, since leaves are translucent, not opaque.

I most liked how the far ridge was still in shadow, providing a nearly black background for the lower branches. So I isolated one cluster of leaves to give them their spotlight in the sun.

Cottonwood tree foliage in fall colors, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.2017_CO-5516Cottonwood foliage, fall colors, against shadow.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

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Mesa Verde: Square Tower House at Sunset

November 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Square Tower House Setting, Navajo Canyon, Mesa VerdeSquare Tower House Setting, Navajo Canyon, Mesa VerdeThe Square Tower House site in Mesa Verde National Park has the park's tallest structure. Built in a Navajo Canyon alcove just underneath the rim of the mesa, the community was only accessible by hand and toe hold steps pecked out of an adjacent cliff face. Image No. 2017_CO-5398-Pano. Copyright © Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography

Square Tower House is the name of an Ancestral Puebloan archaeological "ruin" site in Mesa Verde National Park. In addition to being located in an intriguing alcove cut by erosion from the sandstone layer capping the mesa, it has the tallest surviving pueblo structure within the park. The "tower", that is. Though it is not a true tower, because it did not stand alone when the village was in use. It had an adjoining structure or two, which is equally fascinating to consider.

Looking down onto the site, one naturally wonders: how do you get down there? Simple: the ancient ones had pecked hand and toe hold steps (if you could be so generous as to call them that) down an adjacent cliff face.

The overlook is a short walk from the parking area along the Mesa Top Loop drive in Mesa Verde. On this particular autumn evening I was delighted to see the sun so far south that it lit up the alcove with bright afternoon light.

Nice, but what I was waiting for even more was the warm rays just before sunset. I was not disappointed.

Square Tower House at Sunset, Mesa Verde National ParkSquare Tower House at Sunset, Mesa Verde National ParkA late October sunset glow lights up the alcove housing the Square Tower House site, from the Mesa Top Loop road in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

Image No. 2017_CO-5491-Pano. Copyright © Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography.

Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Montezuma County, southwest Colorado.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg / Stephen Krieg Photography


Photographing Moonrise

February 10, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Moon Rising over La Sal MountainsMoon Rising over La Sal MountainsThe Full Moon begins peeking over the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

Photographing landscapes with the rising moon at Full Moon time requires some planning, as well as luck. Especially in regard to the weather.

Oh sure, you could just "Photoshop" a separate shot of the moon into any landscape image you have. But besides being cheating (unless you clearly label the composite image as a photo illustration), you would be robbing yourself of the thrill of the hunt. Your choice.

The things you need to know are when and where. The moon does not rise straight East any more than the Sun does. It swings further north or south according to the time of year (unless you are on the Equator, I suppose).

Besides that, the date on the calendar listed as "Full Moon" may not be the best evening for your shots. Often the evening before the calendar Full Moon is the best day of the month. You have to be ready on both dates. Think of it as twice the opportunity, twice the fun.

As to exactly when and where it will rise, there are plenty of sunrise/sunset websites where you can look up for that. On them, take note of how closely moonrise is to sunset on the day before Full Moon, and then the day of.

I look for when the moon will be just up and it's still light, or just after sunset. You want detail in your landscapes, and the moon rises approximately 45 minutes (that varies a bit, too) later each day.

An even better aid is the website The Photographer's Ephemeris (photoephemeris.com), which lists moonrise, sunset, and also moonset times. But even more helpful is the Azimuth that everything occurs at. Azimuth is the direction, in degrees, on the compass. Zero and 360 are North, 90 is East, 180 is South, and 270 is West. (There is also a think called magnetic Declination, look it up.) So if the moon is going to rise at, say, Azimuth 70 degrees, that's 20 degrees north of due East (90), and you'd better take that into account. It won't be the same each month, either.

Another factor is that the moon, like the sun, does not rise straight up into the sky. It arcs. And anything other being really flat--like being on the plains, or on the seashore--delays how long after official Moonrise it will appear above whatever landscape you have in mind. How long? Well you will have to get some experience in your area and for your subjects, but with mountain ranges here in the western U.S. it's often 20 minutes. Maybe a more depending on how close you are to the mountain or whatever is in front. And since it's arcing, it's going to be more to the right than if you had been on a flat plain.

In the first photo above, the moon is just peeking over the La Sal Mountain Range in southeast Utah. Official Moonrise had been a good 20 minutes before. Which means that it's already arcing to the right, toward the Southeast. We can plainly see that from the other photos in the series.

Moonrise, La Sal MountainsMoonrise, La Sal MountainsThe Full Moon rising over the La Sal Mountains in February 2015.

Why is the night before official Full Moon better sometimes, while at other times the next night is? It's because Full Moon is when the moon is 100% illuminated by the sun. If that moment occurs a second before Midnight, the calendar will show Full Moon as being on that day. But if the moment of 100% occurs a second after Midnight, it will show it as being on the next day. The moon is fully illuminated when it rises exactly opposite the sun. That could be when it's on the other side of the world from where you are, in the middle of the day.

Moon Rising at Dusk, La Sal MountainsMoon Rising at Dusk, La Sal MountainsThe full moon has risen over the La Sal Mountains as the twilight colors fade.

That's why a guide like The Photographer's Ephemeris is so helpful in planning when to be out there. Look at the day before Full Moon, and the day of. It's best to be out both evenings. Especially since the weather is going to shut you out at least several Full Moons of the year.

More importantly, watch that calendar for when Full Moon is, and be aware of what's going on for what you would like to include in the scene. And most of all: have fun!

Photo Location: San Juan County in southeast Utah, between Moab and Monticello.

© 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

 

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